By Guy Page
In Vermont’s capital city, wearing a mask in most public buildings is no longer optional. It’s the law.
The City Council of Montpelier last night passed an ordinance requiring the wearing of masks inside public facilities for the duration of the Covid-19 state of emergency.
Exceptions were made for restaurants, hair salons and other businesses where strict observance would make normal business activity impossible. Single-occupant businesses — such as a lawyer working alone in his office — also would be excepted. The roughly hour-long discussion of the draft proposal, and the vote on an amended version, can be seen and heard in its entirety on YouTube.
The ordinance was requested by more than 80 businesses. To paraphrase the words of some council members, the ordinance takes the heat off of individual business owners who can now point to the ordinance and tell recalcitrant customers, ‘no mask, no service.’
However, the ordinance has faced severe criticism from some residents on Front Porch Forum and other social media, residents speaking at the meeting said. One such critic, longtime citizen advocate Steven Whitaker, called into the meeting to say watchers on Zoom can’t follow the council’s discussions of amendments because they lack access to those documents. He also questioned the council’s public health priorities: “People are crapping in the streets and you’re not worried about that problem,” he said. “It’s absurd.”
First-hand observation in Montpelier bears witness to Whitaker’s claim. As access to public restrooms in the library, city offices, and restaurants have declined due to Covid-19 measures, incidents of public defecation have occurred, although the extent of the problem is a matter of debate. The Council did not address Whitaker’s comments.
According to the state of Vermont Covid-19 map, Montpelier has between one and five residents who have tested positive. The closest town with more than five is Waterbury, with six cases. Montpelier does have a business district that typically caters not only to residents, but to visitors from across Vermont and out-of-state.
Neighboring Barre City this week approved an ordinance “encouraging” mask use in public places, but stopped short of a mandate supported by two of its five members. Gov. Phil Scott last month announced municipalities would be free to pass local mask ordinances.Many Vermont communities have passed resolutions. Manchester and Burlington are among other communities requiring mask mandates in public facilities.
Townsend returns to Windsor County senate race – Wayne Townsend, a self-employed Bethel resident, former farmer and unsuccessful Windsor County state senate candidate in 2018, has announced he will seek election to the Windsor-Rutland House seat in the 2020 election. He ran as a Republican in 2018, but is not listed on the Secretary of State candidate page for the August 11 primary, which now includes the three Democratic incumbents (Alice Nitka, Dick McCormack, and Alison Clarkson) and Republicans Mike Jasinski and Jack Williams.
In a letter to the Vermont Journal, Townsend said he opposes gun rights restrictions, carbon taxation, and forced school mergers. “I never thought I would consider running for office. However, from watching so many people struggle with high taxes to the point where I have seen friends have to sell their homes because they can’t afford the taxes, and the fact that we don’t have much opportunity here in Vermont for our children and future generations, I decided to run,” he said.
Also, the Secretary of State candidate page shows at least two Vermont lawyers and drug legalization advocates are running for high bailiff, an oft-ignored county office. David Silberman of Addison County said on Twitter he will, if elected, plan to use the office as a platform to oversee police activity. The other known lawyer/activist seeking high bailiff election is Robert Sand (Windsor County).
Three-month budget introduced into Vermont House – The Vermont House of Representatives is scheduled today to get its first look at H961, the State Budget for the first three months of 2021. Due to the Covid-19 emergency measures, the State of Vermont is facing a $420 million deficit for 2021. The proposed budget attempts to address this problem with a hiring freeze, other frugality measures, and what appear to be deep cuts in some state agencies. It also allocates significant 2020 “recovery” federal funding to state programs affected by Covid-19 – including $2 million for the Legislature, to cover costs for meeting through August and September, when it will attempt to pass a budget for the remaining nine months of the year.
Be kind to bees and flowers, Fish & Wildlife asks – Vermont’s native bees, which include over 300 unique species and three that are threatened or endangered, are among our pollinators at risk due to pesticides and other factors, the Dept. of Fish & Wildlife announced today. A recent examination of our 17 different bumble bees compared recent observations with historical collections and concluded that several species have drastically declined or even disappeared from Vermont, including the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee. To help, Vermonters can:
- Provide a variety of vibrant flowers and native plants to attract pollinators to your yard and garden.
- Learn to live with wildflowers and weeds growing in your yard and fields. Pollinators prefer a variety in their habitat, even if it looks untidy to humans.
- Keep an eye out for bare patches of lawn where ground-nesting bees may make their home.
- Use pesticide alternatives such as pollinator-friendly barriers to keep unwanted pests off your plants.
- Avoid using insecticides (especially those that contain neonicotinoids such as imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin).
- Reduce the amount of property that is mowed, mow less often, and consider leaving fields un-mowed until October when most pollinators have finished their pollinating activities.
CORRECTION: Wayne Townsend of Bethel is running for the Windsor-Rutland House seat, not for the a Windsor Senate seat as originally reported. He ran for the Senate in 2018.
Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.